Rampant illegal sand mining in the Yamuna bed has forced the river to change its course by about 500 metres in Noida over a period of 15 years, the Uttar Pradesh irrigation department said on Tuesday.
“We have written dozens of letters to the respective Gautam Budh Nagar district magistrates in this regard but they failed to take any substantial action due to pressure from the sand mafia. We can only tell the district administration about the prevailing condition of the Yamuna,” said an official of the irrigation department, requesting anonymity.
The department said it had sent a letter last month as well.
“If sand mining continues the same way, the day is not far when an Uttarakhand-like disaster will take place due to the receding floodplains. We do not have powers to curb illegal mining. This is the responsibility of the district administration and the police. But instead of taking action against them, they shelter the mafia under pressure from political bosses,” said the official.
On June 16, flood in the Yamuna had damaged the river bank near Noida’s Sector-168 where the river swelled up to 207 meters after heavy rain.
The department said soil up to 20 feet had been dug up illegally in the riverbed. The sand mining mafia controls the entire 60-km stretch along the Yamuna that falls in Gautam Budh Nagar district.
“We have lodged several FIRs against criminals in the past three years, but police have not taken any action so far,” the official said.
He said illegal mining was being carried out near Kambakshpur, Tilwara, Jhuppa, Belakala, Gulawali, Shahdra, Sectors 150, 135, 168, 167 and others areas right under the nose of the administration and police officials.
Noida and Greater Noida are already low-lying areas situated on the left side of the Yamuna and the entire region is badly affected by mining activities, say experts.
“Mining has lowered Yamuna’s bed towards Noida. And the base is so shallow that a flood can create havoc if mining continued unabated. Mining has led to soil erosion in the river, which is bound to affect the ecology of the river,” said Akash Vashishth of the Hindustan Environment Action Group.
However, the district administration has said that it has taken measures to curb illegal sand mining in the region.